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Immigration stories: Hrynenko family

Hrynenko family immigration story narrated by Judy Hrynenko (Vancouver)

Dad was born in Selo Rozdil, Mykolaiv Rayon, Lviv’ska Oblast. Mom was born in Lublinic, Lubaczow, Poland. Before 1919 it was actually part of Ukraine, but when Poland won the war against Ukraine in 1920 they moved the borders – just before my Mom’s birthday in April. Mom always hated the fact that she had a Polish birth certificate. Her Baba was a Duda.

It was in a “displaced persons” camp in Germany during World War II, where Michael Hrynenko and Anastasia (Mary) Zinkewych were married on Oct. 25, 1946.  Both had been forced to leave their beloved homeland Ukraine and their hearts desire was to go back there, but it didn’t seem possible.  But they had to leave the camp at Cornberg, since there was always fear of being sent to Siberia or worse, to a death camp.  Leaflets used to fall from the sky over Germany from the planes, calling them home, to the land of freedom…

Wedding picture after wedding with all of members from the Cornberg Camp in Germany

Wedding picture after wedding with all of members from the Cornberg Camp in Germany

The opportunity came for them to apply for immigration status – and the question was: to Canada or the United States?  Several of their friends had applied to go to Canada, and moreover, Michael had heard of a sugar beet factory located in Carey, Manitoba that was looking for workers.  They decided Manitoba would be their destination, and began to look forward to starting a new life in a new land.

In the spring of 1949, Michael, Mary and little Roman who had joined the family in 1947, boarded the ship Arlington and off they were to Canada.  The voyage was rough, steerage was horrible, Mom said, but they finally landed at Halifax on the Eastern shore of Nova Scotia.

Arlington-Boat 4

Arlington Boat

The Hrynenkos had had enough of war.  It seemed Europe had one every 20 years – first in 1919, then again in 1939.  They felt glad to be in a safe country where they hoped, would never see war.

All of their goods arrived safely in Canada, but then in a twist of irony, something happened to the dishes they had received as a wedding gift.  The story has become part of family lore.

“I couldn’t believe the dishes had survived the war and made it all the way across the ocean in one piece,” Mary says as she tells the story.  Then the porter takes the box, puts it on a dolly and it smashes to the ground!  The only piece left was the coffee pot. “Can you imagine”!

The coffee pot sits in the china cabinet today is a reminder that while life is fragile, some hardy things will always survive.

Sugar Beet Farm

As a couple, Michael and Mary worked hard on the sugar beet farms with Roman at their side.  During the winter Michael was employed with the Canadian Pacific Railway until 1956.  Soon they had saved enough money to purchase their first farm at Rosa (Manitoba).  They paid $1,800.00 for 160 acres, two cows, one horse and some geese.  For $200.00 more, a hay rack and cutter were thrown into the bargain.

Hrynenko Wedding Picture Oct 25, 1946

Hrynenko Wedding Picture Oct 25, 1946

Over the years they purchased three more parcels of land and another farm.  Looking back, the couple would say they lived a good life.  They joined the Holy Eucharist Ukrainian Catholic Church of Rosa, were Michael was cantor from 1969 till 2002, when he started to lose his voice. Michael, sang at every Church service, wedding, funeral, anniversary, around the community, his voice will never be forgotten.

They were also members of the Shevchenko Ukrainian Centre in Rosa.  Mary worked at the St. Malo sewing factory until her retirement, and was a life time member of the Ukrainian Catholic Woman’s League.

At the time this story was written in 2006, soon to celebrate their 60th Wedding Anniversary..  Michael, lives on the farm, while Mary, had been in the St. Pierre Joly personal care home because of Parkinson’s disease.  The disease had affected her back and neck and needed to be in a speciality wheelchair.  Dad looks out the window and watches time go by: he is lonely without his Mary and longs to have his life back they way it was, he often thinks about the trials and tribulations he endured during the war, then states “We did what we could to survive”.  Usually after he has reminisced about the past, he breaks out into a Ukrainian song, wipes a tear or two and smiles.

Mom & Dad0001

The Hrynenkos had always been very proud of their Ukrainian heritage and have handed down their customs and traditions to their four surviving children. Mom & Dad are gone now, both would have been 95 each. I miss them dearly.  Dad was my mentor, he taught me traditions that I came to respect of my heritage. They never forgot their homeland Ukraine, wrote many letters and helped their family the best they could.. I know, Dad longed to go back and see his family, and Mom well, she never saw her parents again after being taken in 1942 from the Germans.

This is one of millions stories of Ukrainian immigrants who fled to Canada. We’ll be glad to share yours –

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